I’m a really happy person, which doesn’t mean much unless you’ve read my novel, In the Mind of Revenge. You can tell from the title it’s not a tale of unicorns, rainbows, and happy-endings. It is dark, twisted, sad, murderous, and most certainly violent. So, I often get asked where I got the idea for this book, especially since it seems so opposite of me and my life experience.
Well, besides my love of all things Halloween (Creepy? Scary? Paranormal? Yes, please!), the inspiration for this particular story started as all my ideas do—with an unexpected visit from the main character. Shame came to me in a dream during a time of depression, which I am sure is why I latched on. In honor of Halloween and the release of the audiobook version of In the Mind of Revenge on October 31, I thought I would share the haunting that started it all—my eerie dream of shame.
The silence is heavy and jarring in a way no amount of noise could ever be. It commands stillness, taunting me to dare cross it. My lungs burn as they expand as far as they possibly can. I do not exhale despite my chest’s urging. Every inch of me is working hard to suppress the panic bubbling in my gut. The vast emptiness around me does nothing to aid my cause. Hot breath sends an icy chill across my neck and shoulders. I stiffen, hoping it is possible to be more still, more silent than I already am. I am becoming part of the emptiness, releasing into it everything I am made of. I know I will die in this place, slowly consumed by the darkness of silence.
It is then a whisper tickles my neck, curling its way around, tightening its grip. It crushes my throat, denying me any option for one last breath. I do my best not to look, not to hear. Just let me go, I shout inside the prison of my mind. But, it is stronger than me and its message rings through the air, cutting through the stark silence.
“I see you.”
Everything in me wants to recoil, but it won’t let me. The pressure in my chest and stomach are unbearable. I open my mouth, relenting to the burning in my lungs, but no air enters them. It’s strangling me, this invisible demon. I can feel it bucking and bursting in its relentless pursuit to break free of my body. Despite the blackness of my surroundings, I can see the demon oozing from my abdomen, one tendril at a time. It is blacker than the darkest night, more sinister than its most evil villain.
The contents of my bowels spill onto the ground with the amorphous form of the demon that was once living inside me. The smell is wretched, like nothing my senses have ever encountered before. I can see the stink of rot floating around the demon as it begins to grow larger. Fear grips me, urging me to run, but I cannot move my feet. I must watch in horror as the monster that has been suffocating me for years begins to take form. Black demonic fingers extend and retract from arms that are defining themselves quicker than I’d like.
I am scared to look, to face my demon. I close my eyes as hard as I can, my attention immediately drawn to my exposed insides. The hole my monster crawled from is still there, a wound I know will never heal. Blood is steadily dripping from the tear, which I now fear is feeding the demon. Suddenly, it is near me, its lips grazing my ear lobe. We are both still, waiting for the other to make a move. I wonder if it knows I am paralyzed. Is this part of its game? I can think of nothing crueler than continuing to plague me with the ultimate villain in dark silence like this—time.
Hands shoot up to my face. Fingers pry open my eyes, forcing me to see what I have been dreading. “I see you,” it hisses, licking my left cheek as if taste testing its last meal. My eyes lock with its, stopping my heart with the realization of its true nature. Staring back into my eyes is me—a shadow Peter Pan would surely be glad to lose. Though, I know it is more than just a shadow. It is the embodiment of everything I have ever hated about myself. Every piece of me I have ever abhorred, detested, looked down upon. I am right—my demon is drinking of my blood…of my shame.
My shame begins to laugh hysterically, its low booming voice somehow sounding of many. It wields its right hand to deliver my final death blow, plunging its fist into my chest. I can feel razor sharp claws penetrating my heart, slowly sealing my fate. It whispers in my ear again, one more time before it releases me into the nothingness for good.
I begin to fall. The descent lasts so long I am certain there is no end. To my surprise, my shame is falling with me, now fused to my heart. It is a part of me now in a way I cannot escape. I knew I would die in this this place.
In the space where acceptance meets desperation, I feel a tugging that wrenches my head backward, threatening to remove it from my neck. My shame cries out in agony, and I realize the tugging is not hurting me. In fact, it is refreshing, like melting ice against too hot skin. No, the tugging is not breaking me—it is interrupting the black shadow’s snack of my feeble heart and soured soul. My demon’s ghoulish screams are music to my ears. I wonder what has come to fight it and hope it will win. The heat of it I now recognize as an old friend I was certain had abandoned me long ago. Love bends around me, cradling me in its arms, its whispers sweet and tender.
“I see you.”
I am at a crossroads called choice, and I must make a decision. It seems simple to my heart, who is suffocating under the weight of shame. Yet, my mind is ill-content to let it rest as such—these things are not so clear. This demon is mine—this demon I have earned. It came from me. It is of me. I must carry its weight. My shame knows I do not deserve love. The warmth rescinds as quickly as it came, leaving one last message before it departs.
The blackness consumes me, and I disappear into my demon’s rotten form. We are one now, indistinguishable from one another. Where I start, my demon begins. I am my shame. My shame is me. We are the Shamed.
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About The Author
Debut novelist Liv Hadden has been writing ever since she was a little girl. But, it wasn’t until 5th grade when her teacher said she’d one day write a book that she started taking it seriously.
Her Shamed series began in college, when Hadden employed her writing as an outlet for her feelings during a serious bout of depression. After a brief, yet impactful first night of writing, she dreamt of a shadowy figure, tormented and demonized by their own mind and realized this was the shadow of pain that hurting people everywhere felt.
She woke from her dream feeling more energized that she had in months, picked up her computer and began to write. “I felt if ever there was a story inside me and a character worth taking the leap, it was Shame and this story,” says Hadden. “This one in particular is personal in nature, and perhaps the very reason it’s so close to my heart.”
Hadden has her roots in Burlington, Vermont and has lived in upstate New York and Oklahoma, where she went to college at the University of Oklahoma,, and earned her degree in Environmental Sustainability Planning & Management. She now resides in Austin, TX with her husband and two dogs, Madison and Samuel and is an active member of the Writer’s League of Texas.
Incredibly inspired by artistic expression, Hadden immerses herself in creative endeavors on a daily basis. She finds great joy in getting lost in writing and seeing others fully express themselves through their greatest artistic passions, like music, body art, dance and photography. “I get chills when I have the great privilege of seeing someone express their authentic selves,” says Hadden. “I believe it gives us a true glimpse into the souls of others.
Author Website: LivHadden.com